European Heat Waves Force Closure of Classic Climbing Routes in Alps

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Jungfrau, in Switzerland, where climbing tours have been cancelled for the first time in a century. Dirk Beyer via Wikipedia
Jungfrau, in Switzerland, where climbing tours have been cancelled for the first time in a century. Dirk Beyer via Wikipedia

European mountain guides are cancelling climbs up some of the most iconic peaks in the Alps, including Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn, as a series of heat waves and rapidly melting glaciers have made the routes too dangerous.

Alpine guides in Switzerland, France, and Italy say that a series of heat waves starting in May, coupled with the ongoing effects of global warming, have led to climbing cancellations on about a dozen peaks, AFP reports. Among them is the Jungfrau in Switzerland, which saw climbing tours cancelled for the first time in a century. Guides also closed climbing tours on both the Italian and Swiss sides of the Matterhorn and said they were suspending ascents on the classic routes up Mont Blanc, which straddles France, Italy, and Switzerland.

In previous years, during warm summers, some of these routes were closed in August, but the glaciers are now “in a state that they are usually in at the end of the summer or even later,” said Andreas Linsbauer, a glaciologist at Zurich University, adding, “It is sure that we will break the record for negative melts.”

The heat and accelerated glacial melt can make climbing treacherous, mountain guides say. Last month, 11 people were killed at Italy’s Marmolada glacier by falling ice and rocks. The cause for that disaster has not been definitively determined, but Mylene Jacquemart, a glacier and mountain hazard researcher at Zurich’s ETH university, told AFP, “The general theme is definitely that more meltwater makes things complicated and potentially more dangerous.”

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